Cigar Girl Murder: Edgar Allen Poe and the birth of True Crime | The Tape Room

There are countless stories haunting the waters of the Hudson River, and Mary Rogers is one of them.

To understand what happened to a young woman on the water here nearly two centuries ago, you also have to know what used to happen inside an old cave in Hoboken.

Sybil's Cave is on the Jersey side of the Hudson River and in the mid-1800s, New Yorkers with money came to the natural spring there as a weekend getaway.

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"People would come over to this side of the river on the weekends, especially to get fresh air," said Hoboken Historical Museum director Bob Foster.

Back in the mid-1800s New York City was mostly powered by coal and in the summer it often became a sweltering and dirty mess. Then one day way back in 1841, Sybil's Cave became infamous for another reason.

When did the Cigar Girl murder happen?

"The date was July 28, 1841. So we're 180 years ago," Foster said. "Word was spreading pretty quickly that, you know, Mary Rogers has been murdered. They always talk about that the body of Mary Rogers was found floating in the river, just off of Sybil's Cave."

Mary Rogers was a 21-year-old woman, who, at the time of her death, was already famous in New York City for simply being herself.

"She achieved a kind of early form of what we would today recognize as being famous just for the sake of being famous," said author Daniel Stashower. His book "The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allen Poe and the Invention of Murder" details the complicated case.

Before her death, Rogers worked at a well-known cigar bar in Lower Manhattan -- where many writers, journalists, and elected leaders were customers.

"Men wrote poems to where they went on and on about her, her hypnotic eyes, her raven tresses, and her womanly figure," Stashower said. "But the story did not have a happy ending in 1841. in July, she was found floating in the Hudson River, strangled to death, and the city just went into an uproar over this."

"There was a lace cord tied around her neck. And one of the descriptions, early descriptions over was described her as nightmarish beyond imagination," Stashower said.

Nearly 2 centuries later what happened to Mary remains a mystery. A secret hidden deep in these waters and beyond that cave where history sometimes has a way of staying hidden.